Eddie Robinson Jr. will be adjusting to coaching learning curve
Alabama State made one of the more surprising hires of the offseasons when the school named Eddie Robinson Jr. its next head coach despite his lack of experience at the position.
Robinson, a former Hornets player and NFL veteran, understands that there will be some learning curve from the start. That inexperience, he said, can be somewhat mitigated by a group of veteran assistants, including longtime HBCU coaches Greg Ruffin, Harry Williams Jr. and Miles Brandon.
“In football, it’s all about managing people,” he said during Thursday’s SWAC football media day. “The biggest thing for me is building relationships. One thing I learned about the job is that as a head coach you’re coaching a lot of football. You’re doing a whole lot of managing.”
Alabama State opens the season in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge against Howard on Aug. 27.
Alcorn State looks forward to normal schedule in ’22
Because it was penalized for forgoing the 2021 spring season due to all sorts of in-house challenges, Alcorn State was road warriors in the fall.
The Braves, after a 500-day COVID-related absence, played just three true home games to just seven away from Lorman. The imbalance might have led to an uncharacteristic 6-5 season, though head coach Fred McNair didn’t want to use that as an excuse for the team’s inconsistent play.
This year, Alcorn State will host five home games, including the season opener versus Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 3 and a regular season finale against Jackson State at Spinks-Casem Stadium on Nov. 19.
“What I like about it this year is that we have a lot more home games,” said McNair. “We have five home games to be exact. The biggest thing is getting these guys rested up and (with us) not being on the road so much. What is going to help us is making sure that we get the guys healthy throughout the season.”
Vincent Dancy appreciates long-term commitment from Mississippi Valley State
Vincent Dancy hasn’t experienced a lot of success in the seven seasons he’s been part of the Mississippi Valley State coaching staff.
Though the Delta Devils have not been in contention for a SWAC division or conference championship, the football team has improved incrementally during Dancy’s tenure.
After going 4-7 in 2021, the fourth-year head coach was rewarded with a contract extension that runs through the 2023 season. The program is 6-23 under the ex-Jackson State All-SWAC player turned coach.
“They (the university) value my leadership to lead these young men and that’s the biggest thing,” said Dancy. “I always tell the players to let me be your example and be the best leaders that you can ever see in your life.”
So far Dancy has rewarded Mississippi Valley State’s trust by landing an impressive recruiting class led by No. 1 junior college quarterback Jamari Jones, who is expected to compete for the starting job in fall camp.
“I appreciated them for giving me this opportunity to extend me through the years that they did,” said Dancy.
Alabama A&M beefed up its defense
All the talk heading into SWAC Media Day, and even during it, centered around how the Bulldogs would replace All-SWAC quarterback Aqeel Glass.
Though Connell Maynor and his staff added several quarterbacks in the offseason to compete for the starting gig, the team also heavily invested in improving a defense that allowed 35.1 points a season ago, which ranked fourth-worst in the conference.
In December, the Bulldogs worked the transfer portal to acquire nine ex-FBS players, including several four-star athletes.
The bulk of the acquisitions — eight in total — were on the defensive side of the football led by former four-star Florida State defensive back Carlos Becker III. He was joined by one-time Big 10 cornerback Marquez Beason, another four-star recruit and three-star Marshall defensive back Charles Bell IV.
“We signed a lot of guys out of the portal and defensively we will have probably 10 or 11 new starters on defense, Maynor said. “You have to be a complete team. We knew that was our weakness and we tried to address it.”